bashar al-assad.jpg
Photograph: EPA/SANA HANDOUT

The Baath Party of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has taken a majority in the country's rubberstamp parliament after polls held in regime-controlled areas on Wednesday, state media reported overnight.

The Baath, Syria's ruling party since 1963, won all 165 seats it contested in the 250-member People's Assembly, while its allies on a National Unity list won another 17. The few permitted opposition groups boycotted the elections.

State news agency SANA quoted the head of the electoral commission, judge Hisham al-Shaar, as saying that 5.1 million of 8.8 million eligible voters had cast ballots. The figures could not be independently confirmed.

The polls have been dismissed by the Syrian opposition and its outside backers. They took place on the same day that UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura was opening a new round of peace negotiations with opposition representatives in Geneva.

De Mistura has said that the only election he is interested in is a vote that the UN Security Council says should take place within 18 months under UN supervision.

Syria's civil war, which started in 2011 after al-Assad's forces launched a brutal crackdown against protests, has cost a quarter of a million lives and displaced half the country's population, according to UN estimates.

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